Governor Andrew Cuomo returned to the Mohawk Valley for the second time in less than a week Tuesday to update residents on the flood recovery effort.
“You do the de-watering, but it keeps raining, and we’re stuck doing the same work over two, three or four times,” said Cuomo during a visit to the Mohawk Fire Department. “It’s never ending. It’s day after day after day, but if we can get through the next two to three days it looks like the pattern will change. Then we will be able to begin to rebuild.”
Cuomo told residents the state will do everything possible to help.
“You are not alone. You have neighbors and you have friends who care. We come together and we come out of it better than we went into it,” he said.
The governor has been traveling from county to county since late last week meeting with local leaders to gain an understanding of what help communities might need in the coming days and to keep them aware of what’s happening on the state and federal levels.
During his visit to Mohawk Cuomo stressed safety is the most important issue.
“We’re still in the first phase of the recovery effort and that phase includes keeping people safe. We ask for your patience and for your cooperation as we move through this phase,” he said. “The second phase will be the rebuilding phase, but before we get there we have to get through this first phase that includes ensuring the public’s safety.”
Asked about when the Federal Emergency Management Association will begin helping residents rebuild, Cuomo said FEMA is already on the ground assessing the damage.
“FEMA is on the ground now,” he said. “But until we get to the reimbursement level, where homeowners have someone to talk to, it’s going to be two or three days.”
Cuomo said an assessment of the total damage must be done before the qualification process can begin. “For now, the immediate health and safety of our residents must be addressed before the qualification process begins,” he said.
He added when the full assessment is completed FEMA will start accepting claims. His advice to residents was to contact their private insurance provider now to expedite the process. Residents who do not have insurance can still submit a claim to FEMA, he said.
Ilion Mayor John Stephens praised Cuomo for directing Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens to issue an emergency declaration to authorize immediate work in 23 counties impacted by the past week’s heavy rains and flooding.
The emergency declaration allows the DEC to authorize emergency projects and issue general permits, which allow for emergency repairs to address damage to homes, property and structures, and public infrastructure, including debris removal, and stream, road and bridge stabilization projects. In addition, in cases where the damage has created an emergency situation that could threaten public health or safety, state or local agencies, including municipalities, can begin work immediately, prior to DEC approval of a permit.
Page 2 of 2 - Stephens said the declaration will allow communities that have been flooded to respond and rebuild quickly without having to wade through unnecessary red tape.
“It will allow us to get into the creeks and streams and address issues now,” he said.
Little Falls Mayor Robert Peters also praised Cuomo for issuing the declaration.
“This will allow municipalities to address problems that can affect public safety,” Peters said during a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon. “It will allow us to get into these waters and address problems or potential problems before another disaster strikes.”
Cuomo said Tuesday the DEC and other state agencies are working with the affected communities to minimize flooding impacts and mitigate damage that has occurred.
He also said the heavy rains and flooding has shown the true nature of New Yorkers.
“We will get through these next few days and then we will begin to rebuild and we will build better than before,” he said.